can't wait

sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and sometimes in the middle of nowhere you find yourself. - author unknown

i have a secret longing for the middle of nowhere. and even starting over, hence the military life and i getting along so well. and i can't wait to get back to this space.  this space (almost) in the the middle of nowhere.

in tampa, we don't camp in the summer (99 degrees with 99% humidity is rather miserable); we camp in the winter. and i ache for all that camping has to offer...

bonding as a family. away from the noise. solitude. freedom. the sounds of nature. fresh air. the smell of the woods. no obligations. no deadlines. nightly campfires. s'mores. hiking. bike riding. geo-caching. hammock resting. football throwing. book reading. wildlife. exploring. imagination and creative play. embracing dirty. overall rejuvenation. cherished time together. simple days. the memories.

these were taken back in march, on one of our camping adventures and i can't wait to get back to doing this. soon!!

yep... i can't wait. p.s. kiele was out of town during this trip.

back at it and my first

i've had a few people message me recently about how they've missed my blog. or i guess my blogging. to be honest, i was a bit surprised but goodness, hearing that made my heart so happy. i've missed it too!!  

i've always blogged because it was...because it just felt right. and then i got really, really busy, with a lot of traveling and i just couldn't make blogging happen. at least i couldn't make it happen and feel good about it -- that it was authentic and heartfelt.

so i'm getting back to it. i'm going through some of my older photos that made my heart soar.  that i wanted to share but never did.   i'm simply getting back to this space -- this space that has brought me so much joy over the years.

with all of that said, i also wanted to share a big announcement (along with a few accompanying honest thoughts)...

marketing myself does not come easy. i don't like tooting my own horn. i don't like promoting myself.  i almost have to get out of my own head to be able to post about these amazing things that have happened with my photography. it's hard because i'm so incredibly grateful, but i kind of wish that people just magically found out. like some kind of mental telepathy thing.  but since the mental telepathy thing isn't going to happen, i have to come to terms with sharing.  and that's how i make peace with myself.  it's sharing.  not bragging. not boasting. it's about sharing and being grateful. and i need to get over this hang up of mine.

so in sharing my big announcement, i also thank you -- i am beyond grateful to all who have supported encouraged pushed and believed in me. from the bottom of my heart, i thank you!

one week from today, i will have my first solo show at the kiernan gallery in lexington, virginia. i sure hope to see some friends there. that would be amazing. i'm excited, grateful, thrilled, can't wait...but i'm also just a wee bit nervous.

i also share small bits regularly here on my deb schwedhelm photography facebook page.

surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and the thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don't see it yourself. - author unknown

words of inspiration

...from her, age nine.

Some people do art for a living. Others just do it for fun. Most people think art is just drawing or painting, but it is other things like photography or architecture. There are many different types of artists in the world. My mom is a photographer and so she is an artist.

My favorite thing to do in leftover time is draw. It soothes your mind when you’re angry. No one is bad at art. Everybody has their own style and texture. As I get older, I hope to become an artist. I hope that my artwork will mean something to everyone. I hope to be a painter or photographer when I grow up. People often tell me, 'oh, you’re drawing is so good!' and I tell them the same thing.

I love art. It is my life.

lessons from grandma

today, i want to celebrate the life of grandma mary, who passed away in her sleep this morning.grandma was a woman who: was a woman of faith embraced life did not fear death felt blessed was happy, positive, optimistic, gracious and proud was strong and wise was practical and down-to-earth had a lot of common sense was organized was grateful was compassionate and thoughtful respected and was respected admired mother nature and father time loved the colors of nature graduated from college at 61 saw the world and traveled until 81

you can grasp a bit of the beauty that grandma mary was, when reading her final requests and wishes:

She wanted to be treated with kindness and cheerfulness, not sadness. She asked that her time of dying and death be used as a time of personal growth, for the family as well as her. She wished to be forgiven, for any time she hurt or offended her family, friends, or others. If you must bury something, let it be her faults, weaknesses and all prejudices against her fellow man. Lastly, if you wish to remember her, do it with a kind word or deed to someone who needs it.

i feel that if everyone had just the tiniest bit of grandma mary in them, this world would be a better place.

i'm so grateful that we were able to visit grandma a few weeks ago. while we were there, i asked her what's the secret to a long, happy life and she replied, "always have a pleasant disposition".

so here's to embracing life with a pleasant disposition.  rest in peace grandma!

being good enough

a friend of mine shared with me that she saw one of my photos on the hands free revolution's facebook page this morning. so i went to look. i was so happy to see that they had credited me for the image.  but then i read. their words were perfect and beautiful. and as a self-proclaimed perfectionist, being good enough is something that i often need to remind myself. so today, i embrace and celebrate things in my life being 'good enough'.   yes...good enough!

Children are learning how to be adults by watching the adults in their lives. I want my children to grow up to be adults who embrace “Good Enough.” Here is what Good Enough looks like to me…

Good Enough is spacious. Room for spills, or unkind words, or loud public meltdowns, fielded with love and understanding in-the-middle-of-the-grocery-store-with-the-ice-cream-melting-and-the-produce-overflowing-the-cart when we all agree to just walk away and try again tomorrow.

Good Enough accepts mistakes. Voices them. Owns them. Apologizes. And moves on.

Good Enough asks for help. And never refuses it when it is offered, no matter how awkward it is to send baskets full of dirty laundry home with a friend who is offering to wash, dry, and fold load after load when the dryer is broken.

Good Enough know that “best” requires balance. Especially when life circumstances tax your emotional reserves. When the basement floods, the television is a fantastic substitute for that fabulous, intentional care you typically provide but can’t because you are knee deep in flood water. When your partner travels and you don’t have support with child care, then fish sticks, pizza, or ice cream, (or all three!) are the perfect dinner.

Good Enough doesn’t wallow in defeat. But instead, assumes a posture of problem-solving and solution-seeking. Not in pursuit of perfection, but as a way to a fuller life." -Emily Plank

When we embrace our imperfectly perfect life, we give our children the freedom to do the same. I invite you to read the post in its entirety and be inspired by Emily's enlightening perspective. It's the essence of letting go to grasp what really matters.

thank you hands free mama for sharing.

working together

she said she usually cried at least once a daynot because she was sad but because the world was so beautiful and life was so short. - storypeople

over the weekend, steve and sky built a ladder together. a ladder so my kids and the  boys behind us can climb freely over our backyard fence.  when steve and sky were working on our neighbor's side of the ladder, the boys helped too. and it all makes my heart so happy.  and well...i'll just leave it at that. the end.

 

quiet

have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn?or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? or perhaps you know the silence when you haven't the answer to a question you've been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you're alone in the whole house? each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully. - norton juster i've been quiet the past few months.  i needed to.  last year was amazing but i needed to digest all that happened and reflect. i needed to do some soul-searching. i needed a break. i needed to focus on my family. i needed to bring balance back into my life. i simply needed some quiet.

yes, i've been quiet... but i am here, striving to be present, fully present, each and every day!

and i wanted to share this incredibly beautiful video and the story behind it. took my breath away...

Marina Abramovic and Ulay started an intense love story in the 70s, performing art out of the van they lived in. When they felt the relationship had run its course, they decided to walk the Great Wall of China, each from one end, meeting for one last big hug in the middle and never seeing each other again.

At her 2010 MoMa retrospective Marina performed ‘The Artist Is Present’ as part of the show, where she shared a minute of silence with each stranger who sat in front of her. Ulay arrived without her knowing and this is what happened.

peace, love and hope

your journey has molded you for the greater good,and it was exactly what it needed to be. don't think that you've lost time. it took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. and now is right on time. - asha tyson

i stay out of politics as much as humanly possible. but of course, i have seen a lot of politically-inspired posts via my facebook feed over the past few weeks.  i'm happy to say that i personally have not seen any negative, mean or hateful posts BUT a lot of my friends are sharing about others posting nasty and hateful comments (directed to those supporting a certain political party). really?!! it all makes me so sad. and i just don't. get. it!!

and then i came across this post from my dear friend, becky earl and well, i think she sums things up better than i ever could...

It's no wonder kids these days are cruel and mean to others. They get it from their parents. I am sick to see people on my feed say they 'hate' people who voted for the other party (seen it on both sides). Can we be a little understanding and compassionate and even actually Christian (if you claim to be) for one minute and realize people come from many different circumstances, environments, households, religions, financial situations?! Each person has a to the core, passionate reason why they vote and or believe in someone to make a better life for them. It's not always the same as you. Get over it. Don't teach hate. Kids are sponges and I pray they aren't at school today saying they hate someone cause they think differently then themselves. Instead go hug your kids and love them and teach them to be charitable and loving and kind and to be tolerant of all different thoughts. The change starts with YOU not our president. Peace and love.

as always, becky, thank you for your inspiration.

wishing you all peace, love and...

grow great minds

as i do every year, i've been working on my kids' class auction projects.  i do a book for both sky's and ryder's classes, which includes a portrait, writing and drawing from each child (along with a variety of other photos from the kids and classroom).  their school theme this year is 'growing great minds'.  sky's 4th grade class wrote about 'if i were famous...' and ryder's 2nd grade class wrote about 'i am special because...'. this year, i decided to write a poem for their books, based on the school theme...

Go. Read all you can. Open your mind and... Welcome curiosity. Immerse yourself. Never give up or forget to be... Grateful.

Goodness and kindness will... Reward you. Enrich your life. And feed your soul. Trust those who are willing to teach you.

Make each day the best. It takes time, but your hard work will pay off. Nourish your creativity. Dream big and... Surround yourself with people who will lift you higher.

and here's my two book cover photos (both shot on the school grounds)...

i'm grateful that i can do this for the kids each year, but i sure wish the auction was at a different time of year.  a november 3rd auction date makes it super tough!!

meeting sally mann

anyone who knows me...knows that sally mann has been a longtime inspiration.  like...HUGE, HUGE inspiration.  before i knew any better (in the very beginning of my photography journey), i tried to copy her work.  as embarrassing as this is, here is the photo, taken sometime mid-2006 (after purchasing my DSLR jan 2006)...

then i began to learn, grow, evolve and begin to discover the artist that i am myself.  and i tried again...to do a candy cigarette photograph in my own way (i loved candy cigarettes growing up).  taken feb 2007 and i remember being so, so proud of this photograph...

and then i continued to learn, grow, discover and appreciate...

fast forward to a few days ago.  i got to hear sally mann speak...and meet her (even if it was for the briefest of moments).  i'm pretty sure i was asking her if we could pretend to be best friends in this picture...or something like that.  lol.

to be honest, i dreamt about the day i might meet sally mann, but wasn't sure it would ever really happen.  just kept hoping, dreaming...believing.

sally spoke at university of michigan's michigan theatre, which was incredibly beautiful.  and having grown up in detroit, it was awesome to be back in the area, after 20 years of being away.

sally (can i call her sally?) read an excerpt from the book she is writing and shared a new body of work that will accompany the book.  in her work, she is photographing black men.  seeing her new work was awesome.  hearing the background and inspiration for this new work was that much more incredible.  she's hoping to publish the book and show the work (as 30x40 prints) in the next few years.

the talk was followed by a Q&A session and book signing.  i had brought two sally mann books with me to ann arbor, but, to my sadness, i had left them in my hotel room (immediate family was actually the first photography book i ever owned).  i asked chrisstina, who was running the show, if she thought i had time to run back to my hotel to get my books.  she said, "hurry...run fast".  so that's exactly what i did.  my sickly self ran as fast as i possibly could handle, back to my hotel room -- returning in time to be the last person to have  books signed.

chrisstina was pretty shocked to learn that the group of us had traveled from FL, NY, MN and canada, to  listen to sally mann speak.  so we begged, along with chrisstina's encouragement, to get a photo with sally.  all we had were our iphones and light was minimal...but who cares, right?!!

my sally dreaming isn't quite done yet.  i dream to one day photograph sally and maybe her whole family.  i dream that i can talk to her more.  she strongly discouraged the audience of photographing our own kids, but didn't expand upon the topic, which i found interesting.  needless to say, i have lots of questions regarding the topic.

all in all, it was absolutely amazing -- and i am really, really grateful!!

stay passionate, work hard (really hard) and don't ever give up on your dreams.  you  just never know when it will all pay off and your dream(s) will come true.  :-)

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ETA:  there's been a lot of feedback, thoughts and questions voiced regarding the obvious -- why did sally mann discourage the audience from shooting our own children.  and i don't know the exact answer. her statement was a response to a question asked about her book, 'immediate family' (although i can't remember the exact question). most of the Q&A time was spent discussing sally's new work and the discussion about photographing her own kids was very minimal.

i do NOT think sally meant don't photograph your children at all!!   and i'm pretty confident that her statement revolved around her choice to photograph her children nude, but i just wish she had expanded more on the topic -- especially since i, myself, photograph my children a lot and very often, for personal work / projects.  obviously she and / or her children were affected by sally's journey of  photographing her children.  but i don't believe it's as straight forward as that. i don't think it can be directly applied to me / us, without discussing and considering all the surrounding factors (then and now).  i love photographing my children. they are my muses. they are part of the art that i am currently creating. and i feel that i photograph them respectfully.  they are always aware of the resulting photograph and they know and are aware of what i share publicly (especially if the photograph is a bit moodier, edgier, etc.).

regarding if there was anything that surprised, intrigued me, made me rethink... sally mann shared that she's a bad photographer and a compulsive printer. i had heard her say this before in an interview but it still is a bit strange to hear her say it in person. she was very open and willing to answer any question that was thrown at her. i loved that but wish we had had more Q & A time.

i pretty much suspected, but it was confirmed that sally mann is very private and doesn't get in public very much or even talk much with other artists. it took something like six years of trying, to get her to speak at UM.

i was a bit surprised that she was reading an excerpt from her book as i had hoped that she would just be sharing and talking to us on a variety of topics (she's a brilliant writer). i believe that her book is going to be great and in the end, will probably be more informative and educational than hearing her in person.

someone asked her how she found the black men, who were / are her subjects in her new work. she shared that she sees someone interesting in her town and will just ask them. she pays them $25/hour and will typically work with them for 1-1/2 hours. she says she is as uncomfortable as they probably are through the process of photographing them.

i just came across this harvard link, which shows a few of images from sally's new work. the reading that she shared with us was a smaller version of the reading she did at harvard.

hearing for the first time

i saw this video on TV the other night (can't remember what show). a 29-year-old deaf girl hearing for the first time. her mother-in-law cashed in her pension to pay for her daughter-in-laws implants.

and this morning, i learned that the story continued -- on ellen.  such a beautiful, inspiring story.  and i'm blown away how good the deaf woman's speech is...

the esteem (the device that this woman was implanted with) wasn't available when kiele was implanted.  it is a completely internal device.  kiele has an internal and external portion, which she wears behind her ear (kind of like a large hearing aid).

we love advanced bionics (the makers of kiele's cochlear implant), but having a completely internal device is awesome -- and one of the main reason's why kiele continues to not have her second ear implanted.  technology keeps improving.  hopeful that one day advanced bionics will come out with a fully implantable device.  i think it's only a matter of time -- and maybe by then, kiele will be ready for the surgery and a second implant.

this was kiele's reaction the day her cochlear implant was activated.  not quite as joyful; she was rather confused about the sound she was hearing.

i also found this video, which simulates speech and music through a variety of different channeled cochlear implants.  kiele's implant has 16 channels. it all just blows my mind!

my sweet kiele.  she amazes me each and every day...

thank goodness for the water

most who know me know that i've been having a hard time here in tampa. i really want to just pretend we're moving to germany this summer and start packing things up. but the reality is that we have no idea where steve will be stationed next and the kids and i very well could be here in tampa an extra year by ourselves, to get kiele through high school.  i'm hoping we will know something regarding steve's next assignment by december. with all of that said, one of the things that always makes my heart happy and keeps me sane while here, is shooting in the water. it feeds my soul more than i can even explain. i think about it constantly. i long for it. i ache for it.

here are some photos from an evening spent in the water, with the littles and my friend, jen, when she was visiting us a couple weeks ago from atlanta. i wanted to post these earlier, but ended up with a flu bug that kicked my butt -- and i'm still battling.  anyways...

i think it's fascinating to view our two sets of photos -- how very different the feel / mood is between our photos, yet shot together, many of the frames fired within minutes of each other...

and yes, i do think about the fact that there might not be water at steve's next assignment location, but i'll deal with that when the time comes and...probably be quickly planning my vacation trips back to tampa. lol.

i did edit some images in color. maybe i'll post those tomorrow.

what _____ looks like | month thirteen

a month of settling back at home after a very busy summer (most of it spent away), awesome friends visiting, a trip to crystal springs and LOTS of time spent in the water.  here's what august looked like... back with kiele.

hanging out at honeymoon island.

payton and the mermaid barbie she found rescued from the water.

kayaking and swimming at three sisters spring -- where the water is a constant 72 degrees and the manatees like to hang out in the winter.

the whole gang.

the security guard at our hotel, who has lived in the area his entire life, told us that three sisters spring was named that because three sisters had died there.  he shared that it was shut down for quite a while. so when editing the photo below of my friend, it kind of creeped me out to see three hands in the image (heather's plus two reflections of each hand).  but of course, it also made me love the image that much more.

twister with friends.

at our hotel.

jumping into the river, where we saw five manatee swim by.

celebrating jen's birthday.

lake time.

swimming at home.

playing in the street puddles.

me, shooting in the rain, in the street [taken by jen].

shooting in the smelly bay with jen & the littles [more photos from here coming soon].

and of course, the first day of school [taken after school].

there’s a small circle of photographers participating in this 'what ____ looks like' monthly project.  i hope you’ll check them all out [clicking link to link] — starting with leah zawadzki | orange county family photographer.

love & trust

the professional takes the project that will make her stretch.she takes on the assignment that will bear her into uncharted waters, compel her to explore unconscious parts of herself. so... if you're paralyzed with fear, it's a good sign. it shows you what you have to do. [steven pressfield | the war of art]

i have this photo -- this photo which i love -- deeply love. yet i questioned sharing it. i worried. i doubted. i'm sure it's obvious why. but the photo speaks so much more to me, than what might be seen at face value.

it speaks of... childhood sisterhood innocence the freedom to be be and act without fear of judgment the beauty and magic of summer the love for a friend

and so i fight my fear and choose to trust -- myself and my art. and i knew what i had to do!!

i also had a friend facebook message me this yesterday:

i don't know how you did it but for me, you've gone from outstanding photographer to "artist" in the truest sense. these photos are dark but beautiful at the same time. i'm wondering if your africa trip influenced them or the way you've been shooting lately? i see a different kind of soul in what you are doing now. really interesting. thanks, as always, for sharing. xo

my response to her:

thank you. thank you. i think the biggest thing that influenced me is letting go of everyone else around me. not looking at other work as much as i used to. not trying to be anyone else but me. not caring what anyone else thinks. it really makes me teary thinking about it all. thinking about my journey. allowing myself to be free of the noise in this photography industry. and instead embracing all the gifts and opportunities that have come into my life -- and be the artist i'm mean to be.

it's about allowing myself / yourself to see. and trust!!

i wanted to share this here [with my friend's approval] because it seemed to all tie in together. and maybe -- just maybe -- it will help, encourage or inspire someone else someday.

closing with more words adapted from the war of art [one of my favorite books]... our own unique genius watches over us, guiding us to our calling.

 

at the lake

let yourself be open and life will be easier. a spoon of salt in a glass of water makes the water undrinkable. a spoon of salt in a lake goes unnoticed. [buddha]

beyond grateful for my week in minnesota and all that it offered me...

questions & answers regarding my underwater shooting:

Q: what camera do you use? A: i shoot underwater with my D700 and 35mm f/1.8.

Q:  do you use a waterproof camera? A: i don't use a waterproof camera (refer to next Q & A).

Q:  what underwater housing do you use? A: i first purchased an equinox housing, but it was way too big and heavy, for the type of photography i was doing. i later purchased an SPL housing, which is what i am currently using.

Q: what are you able to adjust once your camera is in the housing? A: i'm able to adjust aperture and shutter speed, once my camera is in the housing.

Q: were you able to stand while shooting the lake photos? A: i was able to stand some of the time. other times i was doggy-paddling or floating in a tube (so not easy).

Q:  are you wearing any special gear or clothing during the shoot? A:  no special clothing; i wear a bikini and sometimes a rash guard. if i'm shooting in the pool and need to stay underwater, i sometimes wear a diver's weight belt (refer to next Q & A)

Q:  how do you stay down?  do you use weights in shallow water? A:  if i'm shooting underwater, in a pool, i sometimes use a diver's weight belt.  if i don't, i'm pretty quickly floating back to the surface.  when i'm shooting in the ocean or lake, no weights with me.

Q: do you use the lensbaby or filters on these shots? A: i cannot use any other camera or lens in my housing except D700 and 35mm. and no filters.

Q: how do you keep things so sharp? A: same principles apply as regular shooting (out of the water).

Q:  do you do much to your photographs post-shooting? A: no, i don't do much to my underwater photographs in post-shooting. basically just standard post-processing, similar to my regular (out-of-water) photographs. i never add any additional blur, textures, etc.

Q:  my questions are a little different as i'm interested in how you fell into this - if you are open to sharing the images that sparked the idea, any thoughts around the creative experience - roadblocks or challenges you found along the way and how you worked through those to these today.  A:  i'm not exactly sure what initially sparked my interest in underwater photography, but i do know that it wasn't images.  i think it really was just something i wanted to try. my first attempt with underwater photography took place about four years ago when i lived in san diego. i rented housing to do underwater maternity photos of a friend.  while it was definitely challenging, it was at that moment that i fell in love with underwater photography. even back then, i dreamt of shooting underwater in tampa.

it didn't take long for me to purchase underwater housing here in tampa, since we have a pool in our backyard, we're surrounded by water and it's hot as shit half of the year. and i quickly confirmed that underwater photography is not easy!! but i continued to experiment in the water -- shooting of my kids and friends in my backyard pool. recently, i moved into the ocean and then last week, i had the opportunity to shoot in a lake.  i've come to prefer the ocean and lake, to shooting within the constraints of a pool.

some of the challenges / roadblocks with underwater shooting -- it's a bit challenging to adjust settings and things on the camera are hard to see. a lot of patience is required.  i also have a problem with the 35mm lens i'm using, and when the problem occurs, i have to take apart my housing to reset the lens (very frustrating!).  the simple task of getting someone to the ocean or a lake, to shoot, is not exactly easy (i'm about 50 minutes from the ocean). and my dreads. :-) they take forever to dry, so getting them wet often can be a bit problematic.

regarding the creative experience -- for me, the creative process is the same; i shoot no differently in the water than i do out of the water (martha can attest to that, as she was with me the entire week, while at the lake in MN).  it's what's in me. it's how i shoot. it's what i see. and...it's difficult to explain.

if you look at my underwater work over the past year, it's definitely evolving and growing -- and i'm trusting. it will be interesting to see how things feel when i get back in the pool. it will be interesting to see how things continue to progress.  one thing i know is that i absolutely LOVE shooting in the water. i can't help but feel it's exactly where i'm meant to be!!

i'm not sure where the water will take me, but i'm sure enjoying the ride and oh-so-grateful!  you can see more of my recent water images HERE.

Q:  I would love to know if you are ever worried about water leaking in? A:  the first time i put my housing and camera in the water, i was a bit nervous, as i ever-so-slowly submerged it under water.  but now, i do a quick initial dunk, check if any water leaked in -- and start shooting.

+++

if you're interested in purchasing underwater housing, i highly recommend renting one  before purchasing, as many are custom-made, not returnable and NOT cheap (around $2000).  or maybe even play with an underwater disposable camera, point & shoot or casing for your phone first.  for a very casual underwater shooter, i'm not sure expensive underwater housing is the answer.  just my honest two cents.

i'm not sure where the water will take me, but i'm sure having fun and enjoying the ride!  you can see more of my in-the-water photographs HERE.

xox

deb

ETA:

Q: I am wondering what else you need besides the housing for the camera. Do you need specific rings? What if you want to use a different lens. Is it possible? Are you happy with your housing? Have you ever heard of Sea and Sea? I

i don't need anything else besides my housing. if i wanted to use a different lens, i would have to buy a different front piece for the housing, which would cost about $700. i cannot use a different camera, as my housing is designed to fit only the D700. yes, i'm happy with my housing. i have never heard of sea and sea.